Arriving on board of the ferry cargo area within the car deck, the ship worker tied the bike against the steel pillar, i was left considering what to do with the my worldly possessions of bags on the bike, an English couple Helene & Nigel who were on there way back home to Italy must of spotted my deilema and offered to store the bags in their car until we crossed, it felt like someone had passed me a pair of arm bands to swim the channel, going up to the deck we sat and chatted, Helene & Nigel bought me a cup of tea which i felt gratefull for but a little put out as they insisted to pay for.
The start of the Bon voyage in what the French say. After cycling off ship i knew there was a campsite close to the port, it was a case of taking a guess as to which way to turn, i headed left into a suburban area of Calais and stopped to ask three french guys where the camp site is, it felt strange, a little alien to be cycling into a foreign country knowing this is going to be the next 10 months or so way of life, after talking to the French guys and a little amusing with each other i cycled on taking off on the left handside of the road, 300 yards up the road the French guys started shouting, on the right, on the right.
Cycling through France this past week or so has been up, down, down and up and round about, i`m trying to think of any other situation that gives these types of feelings in massive magnified proportions to say, being at home in the comfort of home, the feeling of freedom, lonlyness, happyness, sadness, seem to be on a grand scale sometimes in waves, over the slightest little thing like dropping something while riding, finding something in a place where you knew you had put it, spilling a bit of food on clothes, to managing to dry some clothes on the bike while riding. The first week or so, has been spent getting into routines, and habits, not that i`m a creature of habit at all at home, quite the opposite but in this situation i think it`s best to get into routinely habits to make things easier, like packing of equipment and general keeping a focus, though i fractionally lost that at one point when cycling out of Bethunes to Avion, heading south as the compass points and finding two roads, a toll road and a motorway, the only roads heading in the direction of travel and not being able to cycle on them, having to cycle back through the town centre to take a smaller road from the other side of town, the feeling of frustration and unfocussed once heading in the right direction soon dissipated.
By Thursday 5th July i felt i was slowly getting into the stride of things pushing out more miles at an easier pace which is pleasing, the miles up until then have been on the lower side than originally planned, probably has alot to do with the lack of long distance cycle training before the trek.
I love France, eveything about France is French, the air, the water, the weather one minute it`s sunny the next minute thunder and lightening, the opening hours of the shops, from 12pm they close until 3pm, i was wondering why everytime that i get to the shop they`re either closed or are closing, their modesty, was sitting on a wall of somebodys house as they drove their 4x4 down the driveway, i moved away from the wall, a lady wound down her window and said Bon appetite and motioned to eat something, the language seems so basic, all of the words learned and forgot from school i`m sure it would be easy to pick back up spending a bit more time here. After a broken pedal mishap i got talking to a street cleaning guy, asking him where the nearest bike shop is, not that i understood alot of what he said somehow got the jist.
Heading further southeast towards Switzerland it felt like France had opened up, cycling through rural countryside, small villages, i stopped to ask a family that were sitting inside their garage if i could fill the water bottles up, they couldnt speak much English as my French, when the lady went to fill up the bottles the guy was shouting Schnaps, she came back with the waterbottles filled with water and ice and bottle of Shnaps which i turned down pointing at the bike, us all laughing, had my thoughts on pressing on another 15 miles, it`s not a race and would of been good to stop, i think getting that balance of time, place, when and where. That night made it to a small village called Rimaucourt around 9.30 had a look about and parked up behind the village restaurant, was considering sleeping in the sleeping bag for the night, the weather was nice, quite a mild night, the ground was quite stoney, once it got dark headed to a small bridge nearby next to a river to pitch up the tent for the night for an early start in the morning
The weather seems to be getting that gradually warmer, noticeable within 60 miles of cycling, still bursts of rain from out of know where, French weather can be the only thing to call it.
Cycling from Luxeuil les-Bains in a south east direction to Belfort towards the Swiss border, after about 12 miles cycling arrived at a roundabout with Belfort signed posted to the left along a motorway with visable signs for no bicycles, walking, scooter or tractors, so turned off to head to a place called Lure thinking in mind to stop for a cup of coffee, after passing one cafe on the right and coming to another bar cafe just after i pulled up to rest the bike against a lamppost outside, turned around and a lady, Veronique was walking out the cafe with a book of a cyclist Philippe Jacy who`s been cycling around for years who she had met at the same bar cafe, she could`nt believe it bumping into each other as she explained she was just about to cross the road to give the book to an older lady who used to do many miles years ago cycling with her husband, after a cup of coffee and great talking about France and coincidance of our meeting outside, Veronique was on the phone to the local newspaper and mayor where a journalist came to the bar to ask details and take a photo for an article in the newspaper, quite surreal moment, great people, great talking.